HEALTHAGENDA

Netball

Super Netball stars talk about their female heroes

Some of Australia’s brightest netball stars share stories of the women who inspire them, on and off the court.

While they’re our heroes on the court, these Super Netball players have their own inspiring idols they look up to.

Our Aussie netball champs talk about the incredible women who help make their dreams come true, inspire strength, determination and a belief that anything is possible.

NSW Swifts’ Tayla Fraser doesn’t have to look too far from home to find her number one hero – her mum, Melissa, who did everything she could to support Tayla’s netball dreams.

“When I made my first state team at 15, I started training 5 or 6 days a week, for 3.5 hours every day. It was a 40-minute drive to get there so my mum would finish up her day as a school teacher, grab me and my baby brother, drive me there, then sit in the car entertaining him while I trained. At 8.30pm we’d drive home and she’d have dinner on the table. She’s literally a superwoman in my eyes. She did that for 2 years until I got my driver’s licence. Maybe she would have preferred to see her friends or just watch TV after a long day at work, but she never complained. She did it so I could follow my dreams. Mum played netball for 30 years, so as well as my biggest supporter, she’s my biggest critic when it comes to telling me what I need to work on. But I love that about her, and I always get a cuddle and an ‘I’m so proud of you!’. She’s serious #mumgoals.”

GIANTS Netballer Amy Parmenter’s biggest hero was just a little girl when they first met. Now they’re the best of friends, working together to inspire others and make a difference.

“The day I met Molly Croft was at the first event I’d gone to as an official Giants player. It was at Westmead Children’s Hospital Telethon and I was there with so many others, dressed in my uniform. Molly, who was having treatment for an aggressive bone cancer at the time, had just come out of a chemotherapy session when she came over to say hello. She had the biggest smile and was a total netty-head. She’d played in her hometown of Dubbo before getting sick and knew everything about netball. There was just something about her – she had this quick wit and was so positive. She had my heart straight away. Since then, we’ve stayed friends.

“When Molly got involved with the Tie Dye Project, which raises money for children’s cancer research, it just took off. Thanks to Molly, the whole of Dubbo wanted to help! I lost my mum to cancer when I was 15, and I started the Tie Dye Project with my sister in Mum’s memory. Molly has taught me so much about gratitude and compassion, and no matter how hard a training week might be, I know it’s nothing compared to what some people do every day. Players from every team in the country are getting involved with the project now, even some of my heroes that I met at a Diamonds Camp. And it’s all thanks to Molly.”

Queensland Firebirds player Kim Ravaillion says her hero has inspired the kind of player, woman and role model she hopes to be.

“I had a life-sized poster of Laura Geitz on my wall when I was 17 and training at the Australian Institute of Sport. The day Laura called to ask me to join the Firebirds I was staring at [my phone]. It was definitely a pinch-me moment. I’d always admired Geitzy as a player. She was so fit, powerful and strong on court. She showed incredible courage as well, always giving those flying intercepts that she’s so well-known for a good crack. When I came to know her as my captain, my admiration only grew. She knew just how to inspire and motivate the team. But it was even more than that. Geitzy has a real balance between her life as a netballer and her life off the court. She’s proof that you can have both if you work at it. Geitzy has been this incredible role model for me, and now I’d like to be that kind of role model for my little girl, Georgie. Hopefully she can grow up watching me in action and I can be her idol, the way Geitzy is mine.”

Melbourne Vixens’ Rahni Samason wants to encourage other little girls to pursue their dreams in the same way her on-court hero inspired her and made her believe anything was possible.

“Growing up there weren’t a lot of girls or women who looked like me on TV playing sports. But Mo’onia Gerrard was different. Mo’onia [a former Australian Netball player] is part Tongan, and I’m part Polynesian. So, she looked like me, and she had hair like me. Better yet, she wasn’t sitting on the bench. She was on the court, a relentless defender, a total powerhouse. She always played with such determination and finesse, which is what I always hope to do – she made me feel like I could do that too! Seeing another woman of colour at such a high level, with such talent and skill, was so inspiring, and something I’d like to do for other little Polynesian girls. I know there’s so much talent in the community and I want them to know that they can make it. They can represent Australia playing the sport they love at the highest level. Just like Mo’onia did.”

Mahalia Cassidy of Sunshine Coast Lightning says she couldn’t live without her family of strong, supportive women – her very own team of superheroes.

“I’m one of 4 girls, so my mum, Kathy, had her work cut out for her. It wasn’t until I got older that I realised how much Mum did for all of us, but especially me. And it wasn’t just Mum. When I made my first state team, Mum would drive me an hour each way to training 2 or 3 times a week. So, my sisters sacrificed time with Mum too. But no one ever complained. Nothing was ever too hard. These days Mum comes to every game; she’ll even fly interstate to watch me play. And my sisters are literally my 3 best friends. When we all get together it’s a bit of a circus, but it’s great. Now we’re older and have partners I think my dad’s relieved there are some boys in the house, but the girls definitely take over. I think if you asked anyone in the family about Mum, everyone would say she’s the first person you go to for advice or support. She’s my rock.”

Adelaide Thunderbirds’ Shamera Sterling reveals the legendary hero who became her guide and friend, on and off the courts.

“I was just 17 years old when I met Oberon Pitterson-Nattie. She was coaching the Jamaican netball team at the time and had played as goal defender. She became a guide for me, both in netball and in my life, and she’s now my manager. She doesn’t have children of her own, but she treats the women she trains like her daughters. We’re a family. She’s very nurturing, just like a mum, but a straight-talker too, which is what I loved about her the most. When I started to avoid school and just focus all my time on netball, she wouldn’t let me. She told me I needed something to fall back on; something to have after netball. And she was right. She also taught me the game of defence, and I can’t thank her enough for that. She’s always there for me, and I know she always will be.”

Words by Kerry McCarthy
First published March 2022

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